Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he was the target of "extortion and blackmail" by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.
Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., or AMI, in a blog post Thursday on Medium.com. Bezoz says that the tabloid is not seeking money — instead, he said, the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid's coverage was not politically motivated.
The photos include a "below the belt selfie" of Bezos, photos of him in tight boxer-briefs and wearing only a towel, and several revealing photos of Sanchez, according to the emails Bezos released.
Bezos' accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world's richest man and the leader of America's best-known tabloid, a strong backer of President Donald Trump. Bezos' investigators have suggested the Enquirer's coverage of his affair — which included the release of risque texts — was driven by dirty politics.
"Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption," Bezos wrote of AMI, in explaining his decision to go public. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."
The owner of the National Enquirer pushed back on Friday against accusations.
“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos,” the company said in a statement.
The company said that at the time of Bezos’ allegations it was “in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him.”
“In light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary,” it added.
U.S. prosecutors are reviewing whether American Media violated an earlier agreement granting it legal immunity in exchange for cooperation given the tabloid’s handling of the Bezos story, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
President Trump has been highly critical of Bezos and the Washington Post's coverage of the White House.
On Jan. 9, the Enquirer published a Jan. 9 story about his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor who is also married. Bezos then hired a team of private investigators to find out how the tabloid got the texts and photos the two exchanged.
Several days ago, someone at AMI told Bezos' team that the company's CEO David Pecker was "apoplectic" about the investigation, Bezos said. AMI later approached Bezos' representatives with an offer.
"They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn't stop our investigation," Bezos wrote.